By ROBERT JUMPER
One Feather Editor
CHEROKEE, N.C. – The Cherokee Central Schools (CCS) Board of Education convened on Monday, Sept. 18 for a regularly scheduled meeting. All board members were in attendance, except the two Tribal Council representatives. Chairwoman Dr. Jennifer Thompson called the meeting to order and asked Regina Rosario to lead in prayer.
Per the agenda, the Board called Howard Wahnetah, CCS Finance Director, and Rhonica Via, Cherokee Boys Club finance director, to update the board on the school’s financial status. Via was unable to attend, so Wahnetah shared both reports, which primarily indicated that the CCS is operating on schedule and according to budget.
Chase Sneed, CCS athletic director, was called to give athletic department updates. The Battle of the Nations trophy was displayed for the Board. Sneed said they are trying to negotiate to alter Fair Week games to allow for a break that week.
He also said that CCS is starting a lacrosse team. The Atlanta Braves have offered to help teach field maintenance for baseball/softball and to help with CCS sports branding. Sneed announced that Burger King is doing a player of the game for football. Sneed said that “community shoutouts” are helping in getting donations and sponsorships like the player of the game for CCS sports. He stated that lifetime passes for school board members were in the process of being produced. Sneed also said that he is looking into trademarking their logo, “The Boundary”.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Barbara Payne announced an award of grant funds from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act 2023-25 Stronger Connections Grant. The Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) granted $236,000 for use to assist in assuring the overall physical and mental health well-being of students.
Superintendent Consuela Girty spoke on a Harrah’s grant that is helping to fund staff mental health initiatives. She said that initiatives being implemented like teacher workday programs to improve the mental health of the staff were having positive effects. Training and seminars include Cherokee culture, history, and tradition modules, in addition to motivational presentations, and relaxation activities.
Chairwoman Jennifer Thompson stated that “we are able to do things for the mental health of our kids and staff that other school systems cannot.”
The school board approved unanimously by consent the following:
Tom Hansell is approved as the Cherokee Middle School Alternative Teacher. He will need a clear Drug Test, Fingerprint and Background Check with the CCS Human Resources Department.
Shirley Martin is approved as the Cherokee Middle School Life Skills Teacher Assistant. She will need a clear Drug Test, Fingerprint and Background Check with the CCS Human Resources Department.
Courtney Haggard is approved as an after-school Tutor. She is a current Student Teacher and has a completed background check, drug test, and fingerprint check on file with CCS Human Resources.
Jeanne Burgess is approved as a Substitute Teacher. She is a new employee and will need a completed background check, drug test, and fingerprint check on file with CCS Human Resources.
In a separate vote as a part of the board’s unfinished business,
Carrah Swimmer is approved as the Head JV Girls’ Basketball Coach for the Cherokee Central Schools. She is a returning worker and has a completed background check, drug test, and fingerprint check on file with CCS Human Resources.
This action was carried unanimously.
The CCS Prohibition Against Discrimination, Harassment, and Bullying policy was approved unanimously by the Board. And a change to revert to a previous requirement of 40 hours of Board training to be required for new school board members was unanimously approved.
A change was approved to the job descriptions policy regarding new descriptions. The superintendent will be able to update existing descriptions, except for upward salary increases and impactful changes of that nature. Those changes will be brought to the board for approval.
The Board tabled a proposed change to the alcohol and drug-free workplace policy in favor of a joint public statement being issued by Superintendent Girty on behalf of herself and the Board that current prohibitions maintaining an alcohol and drug-free campus will remain in place until such time as the Tribal Council and the government decides guidance for the community after the referendum vote on cannabis.
Assistant Superintendent Payne announced that the 2022-23 Annual Report will be posted to the School’s webpage on Sept. 19.
Assistant Superintendent Payne requested the Board join Superintendent Girty in a request to appeal the school’s BIE Accountability Status for 2021-22 – Standards assessment and accountability plan. The school received a status of “Needs Improvement”.
The Board unanimously consented to joining the letter. The draft of the letter contends that “the English Learner requirement shouldn’t have been listed given the number of students in the subgroup is less than 10. This is the same issue with Cherokee High School as there are also less than 10 students in the English Learner subgroup. (CHS/CMS Federal Chronic Absenteeism report) indicates that the High School should receive full points as the Chronic Absenteeism rate is below 20 percent as indicated in the Accountability measures. A change in these indicators would move our schools from the “Needs Improvement” status to ‘Approaching Expectations’ status’.”
The Board went into a closed session at the end of the open session. The only closed session item listed in the agenda mentioned Tim Smith. No other public information is available as of press time.
Board of Education meetings are held every two weeks and are open to the public while the Board remains in open session.